Thursday, December 3, 2020

5 Oddities

 I was originally going to blog a bit more like yesterday...making a list of each of us. But today was such a weird day, that I think I will take the time to share 5 things that happened today.

1. We got out of the house for a bit, because M had an eye appointment. Not an oddity in and of itself...but he was exceptionally well behaved and cooperative, which IS odd. He actually really seemed to be enjoying himself, showing off that he could read the letters on the chart. He is so familiar with the battery of eye tests, he tries to tell the technician which tests he wants to do (He loves the 3D butterfly and is fascinated by the lights they use to see his retina). His vision with glasses is now 20/25, which is very good. His exotropia is about the same, so we are going to go back to VT (vision therapy) to work on depth perception and eye accommodation and coordination. Hopefully, this will reduce the eye fatigue/eye strain problems he has been having in school, too. He was cheerful and sweet to both the technician and doctor, only crying for a minute when they dilated his eyes. He is still absolutely terrified of the elevators at Emory, though...

2. E got a ZERO on an assignment. This is very out of character for him. He was in such a hurry to finish his work last week, that he overlooked an assignment on his check list. After he got his grade notification and completely freaked out (his grade dropped to a 73!), we had a talk about slowing down and checking off his work as he does it. He did the assignment after he was calm and turned it in, but it definitely did frustrate him that he missed it. He also learned - the hard way - that we shouldn't leave answers blank on assignments because they are marked incorrect if left blank. A good lesson to learn, albeit a hard one for someone was dependable and responsible as E tends to be.

3. I had to go to work in-person for an hour today. We've been 100% virtual since last February, and it was strange to go into the building. Few people were present, so that made me feel better (I only saw 3 other people and we were all masked and socially distanced).

4. E had a freak out over the way his belly button looks. I don't know about this one...or why it bothered him so much...he was too funny complaining about it though!

5. We STILL don't have most of our Christmas lights up...and I just don't know if it's happening this year. I want to finish up...but usually if I haven't done it by the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, I don't have time. It's really sad...I love my Christmas lights, but am drowning in so much school work, I am having trouble getting in the celebratory mindset. I should probably stop stalling with the blogging and get something done!! But, then again...Grey's Anatomy just finished recording and it's just waiting on me, LOL!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

5 Best...

 So I'm doing a mini-post on the "5 best" of different categories for the boys. I thought it would be a great way to take a snapshot of our family here at the end of 2020. Most of us cheated a bit and added an extra song :). We listen to certain groups almost daily (ahem...Piano Guys...ahem), and the kids love certain singers and songs that aren't necessarily mentioned (Dolly Parton, anyone?). M still has a giant crush on Kayleigh Rogers, which started a major enjoyment of Pentatonix and the One Voice Children's Choir. E still mostly likes the songs he's learning on piano (including Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer", though it didn't make his top 6).

So, with no further fuss, here is a list of our 5 (or 6) favorite songs:

M:

1. Hallelujah (Christmas version) and Noel sung by Kayleigh Rogers

2. A Million Dreams (sung by One Voice Children's Choir)

3. You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (Pentatonix)

4. It's Gonna Be Okay (Piano Guys)

5. All I Want for Christmas is You (Piano Guys)

6. Sing It, Say It, Sign It (Jack Hartman Kids)

E:

1. Fur Elise Jam (Piano Guys)

2. Super Mario Theme Song

3. Cello Wars (Piano Guys)

4. All I Want for Christmas is You (Piano Guys)

5. Pirates of the Carribean (Piano Guys and his sheet music version)

6. Anchors Away (sheet music version)

P:

1. The NutCracker (Straight No Chaser)

2. Caravan (Arturo Sandoval)

3. ABC Song (Bare Naked Ladies)

4. Oh My Soul (Casting Crowns)

5. Multiply (NeedtoBreathe)

Me:

1. Perfect (Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocceli)

2. Mary Did You Know? (Pentatonix)

3. This is Me (sung by Kayleigh Rogers)

4. It's Gonna Be Okay (Piano Guys - I love everything they do!)

5. Weight of the World (Elton John)

6. Believer (One Voice Children's Choir cover of the Imagine Dragons song)


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

LMAO...Student of the Month

I cannot believe this...but M was selected as student of the month for his Kindergarten class...!

His teacher wanted to recognize how hard he works to overcome obstacles. M is one of the few kids who is not missing any assignments and often redoes work and tries again (and again and again) when he doesn't understand. He has memorized over 100 sight words and has begun to show pride in his work. He DOES work really hard, and he is being successful overall, even though the work is sometimes hard for him.

That said, it may never happen again. M is home and working virtually...we are not in person. So, when he has autism related meltdowns, takes extended breaks because he is struggling, or whatever...he is not disrupting class because he is muted. So, the class tends to only see the good parts of his participation. Yesterday, for example, he got frustrated, and to show it, drew "angry eyebrows" on his face with expo marker. Then he cried because he didn't want to draw a cow. Then he drew on the table. Then he accidentally tore a page in his phonics book and LOST HIS MIND. In other words, his behavior is much more typical of an older 2 or young 3 year old than a 5 year old. It's to the point where we have had to begin discussing M's placement for when he does go back in person. The county is pushing us to put him in a self-contained class for autistic students (which I do not think I agree with right now...but this is for another post). For now, I am going to be happy that he loves his teacher, he is working hard, learning LOTS and his efforts are being recognized!

Interestingly enough, E has been busting his butt to be responsible and responsive in class. He takes care of all of his work on his own, studies on his own, and has been polite, considerate and helpful. He has been desperately wanting student of the month recognition since Kindergarten, and has never been recognized because his behavior has never been great in the classroom until recently. If ever there was a time for him to be recognized, it would be now! Virtual learning has benefitted him in many ways. But, he still does tend to get drawn into drama because of his curiosity. Today, for example, some kids found a link that teachers unintentionally left open and they snuck in and had a virtual chat party. E was curious as to why people were disappearing from his actual virtual class, and snooped until he figured it out. Then, he went vigilante. He went into the link and took charge as a presenter, kicked all the kids out, and shut it down. Then he reported it. We are glad that he's now using his powers for good. Last month, he was using his tech powers for mischief. After he taught himself how to disable other students' virtual abilities (like messenging, and unmuting microphones) last month, he got into some trouble for doing it during class. But, to make up for it, he did some virtual professional development sessions at 3 schools on how teachers could use the same techniques, and created an instruction document, complete with screen snips, as a learning aid. 

For all of his efforts and hard work, we told him that he's OUR student of the month, even if the teachers didn't happen to select him :)...and I finally gave back his Nintendo DS!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Life is Difficult, Y'all

 I'll be honest...the struggle is real over here. The school system is asking much, much more of teachers than is humanly possible and we are buried under so many meetings and so much paperwork.  I feel like I barely see the light of day. Today I snapped and yelled at my whole family. Not my proudest moment. I'm usually very calm and collected. But I lost it for a moment. I'm so tired that I feel like I am moving underwater. I'm really looking forward to sleeping tonight and getting some rest next week.

At this point, I am working up to 20 hours a day from home, and P is working at about the same rate. Some of our coworkers are working even more. We (thankfully) were able to hire a housekeeper to take care of our home at least once per week, so this helps take off pressure of chores. E has been very responsible with his online learning, and currently has straight A's, so I am glad to not have to worry about his school progress right now. M is struggling through Kindergarten as best as he can. The Apple Tv loaned to us from the school definitely helps him, at least. He can see his teacher a LOT better and it helps with his attention, too. We are crossing fingers that he passes his first reading test tomorrow. We have worked really hard with him to help him learn the 20 words he will be tested over. 

P and I have to take turns juggling live teaching, helping the kids, and the mounds of paperwork and lesson plans that must be completed, and for which we have very tight deadlines. I know that I definitely cannot keep up this crazy pace, I am still very glad to be virtual at the moment. There are benefits to being home that make the sacrifice feel worth it for now. Especially because I feel like M is making progress that he wouldn't be making otherwise. I am also very glad to have a chance to have a break next week with NO SCHOOL. It's sorely needed!!! 



Friday, September 25, 2020

School Update (again)

 So...E is mischievous. We know this. Even still, nothing ever quite prepares me for the first teacher phone calls of the year. We have already had a couple, and have been joking about him getting suspended from home school. But until this week, it was mostly E getting stressed about assignments or being argumentative. 

Then...E (as he often does) got creative. One day before his restriction time period was about to be over from the last major incident, he decided to explore the app that our schools use to deliver virtual instruction. He quickly taught himself to control the chat features and block other kids' access and  kick other kids out of class. Immediately the teacher contacted me, of course. I'm still shaking my head. E is normally such a sweet, loving, responsible kid, it's hard to be mad at him long. We took a break from after schooling until this week; since we are starting back to doing this, he will have a bit of extra work to keep his mind occupied. E has also shown interest in some online courses in computer science & programming, as well as neuroscience, so we are investigating those for him. 

M is trying his best to be so good right now! His tantrums have steadily begun to decrease since we started back at occupational therapy. Don't get me wrong...he still has them...but now he is down to around 3 per day, which is definitely manageable. He still loves his kindergarten teacher, and if we can ever get the school-provided Apple TV to consistently work, I think he is going to really be able to participate in class better, since he will be able to see class more clearly. He dissolved into joyful laughter the first time we got the Apple TV to work and he could clearly see the iPad screen! The school really is working with him, modifying assignments when needed and showing compassion. His teacher calls or texts several times per week to comment on work and his participation. He loves to work on sight words and is really good at them! So far, it looks like he is approaching about 50 sight words, and he can sound out most CVC words. He is throwing himself so much into reading and writing that we are just working on maintaining math skills while we let him enjoy developing his reading and writing skills. We are sincerely hoping that learning to read will help deepen his language ability, which is still definitely impaired. But, with all of his teachers, both parents, grandparents, and a village of therapists who see him on a rotating schedule, progress is being made!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

School Changes

 Last week, I sent a letter to the school and county office about M and his inability to manage the demands of virtual Kindergarten. Every day, at the end of the day, he was exhausted and stimming contantly or sobbing quietly in my lap for an hour because his eyes hurt so badly. I knew that we couldn't keep up this pace and he was already avoiding the iPad and any mention of school. It was going to be awful to make him get back on the computer at the end of the day twice a week for speech, once a week for OT and once every two weeks for Lekotek. 

He's only 5!

The school's response was both quick and compassionate. I was VERY thankful. Because we went through the arduous process last year of INSISTING that they at least document his CP and VI problems in his IEP, they were able to extend some of his accomodations to include a shorter work day on the iPad. He still has to do and turn in all of his assignments, but he has extended time and he does not have to be in class on the iPad more than a certain amount of time each day (it's about half what the other students are doing). Because of this, we were also given flexibility to drop any/all of his "specials" classes if needed (we have elected to keep 2 of the 6 specials classes for now and adjust as we go). We also have an upcoming IEP meeting to address additional supports for autism and ADHD. 

The first shortened day went pretty well. Today was the second day, and while it was a little harder, it is SO MUCH better. His eyes were still hurting, but not until the end of the time he was supposed to be there.

We will see how it goes...


Monday, August 31, 2020

More Bumps in the Road

 So...we hit a few additional problems today with virtual learning.

E was miserable most of the day. I could hear his math teacher fussing nearly constantly at kids over the camera, and he is somewhat afraid of her. Sitting and repeatedly solving simple problems like putting the numbers 7, 5 and 8 in order from greatest to least is also a mind-numbing waste of time for him...he's ready for a serious study of pre-algebra (for math reference, he has completed all of the Beast Academy levels through 5B). I did tell him that if he needs to go to the restroom, eat a snack, or take a break, to let me know. He's entitled to this in person through his 504 plan, so he shouldn't receive a consequence for utilizing these accommodations at home. We are going to try to push through the rest of the week and see how we feel about continuing vs withdrawing.

M is a study in sheer exhaustion. Poor baby keeps falling asleep and can't stay awake in afternoon classes. Honestly...I simply log him into class and point the camera at his sleeping face, partly so that he doesn't get counted absent. Today was the second day that he was crying from being tired of watching the iPad all day, and he cried in my lap through my last period class because his eyes and head hurt from trying to focus. I don't know if this is something he will adjust to, at least at this level. I've sent a letter to the school about the excessive amount of time he has to be on the technology and how it is affecting him so far. I'm hoping they will have some ideas and will be able to be flexible. But, IEP or not, we are toying with the idea of home school for him too.


Waiting to see if the bumps iron themselves out or if I need to jump in and fix everything myself...